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Las Vegas hospitals preparing for coronavirus

Posted at 6:21 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-27 18:13:48-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to spread around the world. There are 15 cases in the US.

President Trump says 5 of those have recovered and the virus is now present on every continent but Antarctica.

The first case in South America has been diagnosed in Brazil when a man came home from Italy. Italy is now home to the largest outbreak outside of Asia. Health experts say a global pandemic is not far off.

13 Action News asked local hospitals how they are preparing for a possible outbreak.

As the fear of COVID-19 spreads faster than the virus itself, some patients walking into Southern Hills Hospital have been asking nurse Elary Martinez about it.

"It's been on the news and on people's minds a lot. So they're very interested to see if they have the virus themselves so that is part of our screening process. So we ask if they have been outside of the country. If they've been to China or if they've been around large groups of people that could possibly been around that area."

Coronavirus or COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, but any patient coming in with flu or cold like symptoms are asked to put on a face mask.

Signs like these are also posted asking patients to let hospital staff know if they have flu-like symptoms.

Patients are then brought to the negative pressure room -- where they are isolated to prevent cross-contaminations from room to room.

The nursing staff puts on a gown, mask, gloves in a nearby room.

Southern Hills Hospital has many negative pressure rooms on multiple floors that can be used in case of a coronavirus outbreak.

Currently, these rooms are used to contain patients with different types of infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

"We screen for all kinds of viruses and diseases every single day so all of these processes are nothing new for us in the emergency department and in all hospitals," says Martinez.

Dr. Col Sondrup, Medical Director of Southern Hills' Emergency Department says the concern with this coronavirus is the rate at which it is spreading and the fact that this is a new virus.

But if anyone is concerned regarding a possible outbreak in Southern Nevada.

"We do have the ability to take care of patients that have coronavirus in the hospital we have that ability in every hospital in Las Vegas. It is new enough that it will require phone calls to the health department as well as the CDC so understand that we have not seen any confirmed cases of coronavirus yet. Understand that, speaking for all hospitals in town we are all on high alert," says Dr. Sondrup.

Dr. Christina Madison of Roseman University of Health Sciences say, though most healthcare facilities in Southern Nevada are prepared to handle cases of Covid-19, there hasn't been enough dire cases in the country yet. That means, for the underinsured and uninsured, we don't know exactly what the fallout will be if a pandemic happens.

As for what awaits you if you're uninsured and you go to the doctor with COVID-19 coronavirus, the good news is that you most likely won't be turned away.

"It doesn't matter if you're insured or uninsured, we're going to take care of you regardless. Those who are uninsured may be concerned because of cost. But just know if you feel sick or ill you can always go to an urgent care or ER and they're going to help you," says Dr. Madison.

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Right now, it's more important to stay informed but not alarmed.

"Similar symptoms as far as the flu but the real big difference is those respiratory problems and the difficulty breathing but any time you have that shortness of breath. You really need to be able to seek medical attention as soon as possible because that;s when people get into trouble and they end up getting into a respirator."